The Arizona State basketball season is in full swing, with the Sun Devils in the midst of conference play. Arizona State sits at 13-4 with a Pac-12 record of 2-2 after four games. Coming into the season, most of our writers picked this team to get to the big dance and finish in at least the top half of the league.
Nick Krueger: The first thing this team needs to do is scoreboard watch. One or two more awful losses like the one to Washington on Jan. 2 to open the conference season and the Sun Devils' NCAA tournament hopes are likely out of their own hands. At this point, a sweep of the "home and homes" with Colorado and Cal while splitting Oregon and Stanford in Tempe and on the road not to mention handling the Utes and Beavers without issue should give the Sun Devils a (23-8, 12-6) record. Place at least two Pac-12 tournament wins on top of that and the Sun Devils should find themselves resting comfortably in the tournament come selection Sunday.
I see enough parity in the conference so far through two weeks of conference play that the tournament hopes may continue to dwindle if teams continue to beat up on each other. Oregon loosing three straight games doesn't look good for the Ducks' resume and depletes the quality of the wins if Arizona State happens to beat the team from Eugene twice.
The Sun Devils' current record in Pac-12 play places them sixth in the conference at the moment. Any more parity and it's tough to see the conference get more than four teams in. If Arizona State can hold on and beat every team it's supposed to beat the rest of the way, a tournament berth is still in the cards. The current trend of poor play by the maroon and gold suggests otherwise at the moment and it could be a long road home if Jahii Carson and company don't mesh soon.
Ryan Bafaloukos: Coming into the Pac-12 season, I thought that if Arizona State went 11-7 in conference and won a game in the Pac-12 tournament it would put them into the tournament. This would give them a 23-10 record (assuming a 1-1 record in the Pac-12 tourney) and I believed that would be good enough.
However, consider that it is the middle of January and Arizona State has yet to register a victory against an RPI top 50 team. Arizona State's best victory came against Marquette, who is ranked 82nd in the RPI as of today. However, the Sun Devils will have plenty of opportunities to get some marquee wins on their resume. Out of their remaining 14 games, eight of them are against teams in the RPI top 50.
I think that if Arizona State can go 5-3 in those eight games and 5-1 against the rest of the league, they would be in a good position on selection Sunday. Their record at the end of the season would be 23-8 and if they do that and win a game in the conference tournament I have a good feeling they will make it into the big dance.
Ben Haber: The margin of error for Arizona State is already slim. 13-4 may seem solid but none of the wins are impressive resume boosters. Defeating No. 25 ranked Marquette (at the time) was supposedly a huge accomplishment. Now the triumph doesn't carry as much weight as we anticipated because of the Golden Eagles' pedestrian 10-7 mark.
The losses came against four quality opponents, but each of those contests should've been barn burners. Instead, the Sun Devils looked outclassed against UCLA, Creighton and Washington and narrowly fell to an okay University of Miami squad. The opportunities to gain respect are still readily available and it starts Thursday on the road at No.1 University of Arizona. The Sun Devils need to play significantly better to finally qualify for the NCAA tournament.
With 14 regular season games remaining, Arizona State can climb the ranks or fall even further. Although the current situation looks bleak, a lot will change by early March. For Jahii Carson to showcase his elite skill set on the brightest stage in college basketball -- his team must go 10-4 down the stretch, putting them at 23-8. Maybe the maroon and gold can squeak in with 20-22 wins, assuming they take care of business and upset Arizona, Oregon and/or Colorado. Right when you think Arizona State finally finds it stride -- it regresses. Coach Herb Sendek should place extreme emphasis on defense (particularly in transition) and the rest will take care of itself.
Mauricio Casillas: At this point of the season, Arizona State has not helped or hurt its NCAA tournament chances. The Sun Devils' 13-4 record is deceiving, and they have yet to beat a quality team. The good news is that they have plenty of games that could greatly increase their chances of making the tournament. The bad news is that this team can lose to any Pac-12 team on any given night.
The Sun Devils have to take care of business against the average teams in the Pac-12. They cannot afford another loss like the Washington one. They also have to have at least three signature wins -- that means beating either Arizona, UCLA or Colorado. In order to make the tournament they're going to have to win at least 10 of their last 14 games. At this point they control their own destiny, which is what any team would ask for.
Point guard Jahii Carson is going to need to play stellar basketball in the last 14 games, and his supporting cast is going to need to step up when he struggles. I still don't think we've seen a complete game from this Sun Devil squad, and they're certainly going to need to play complete games in order to end the tournament drought.